A BRITISH defence company is working on a military plane of the future that is covered by a ‘human skin’.
Okay, sorry. If you’re imagining a big, fleshy aircraft flapping through the sky, thankfully you’d be wrong. This ‘human skin’ is actually tens of thousands of micro-sensors on the exterior of the plane, which work in a similar way to our own skin to feel when it suffers damage.
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The smart skin, which could be the size of dust particles and sprayed over the entire plane, is being developed by BAE Systems and will have the ability to sense temperature, wind speed, movement and any physical strain that could result in damage or pre-empt problems before they prove too late.
According to the company’s statement the eureka moment came to scientist Lydia Hyde when she noticed her tumble dryer employed sensors to prevent overheating.
“Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multifunctional ones,” she said in the article.
“This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage.”
The smart skin sensors have been designed to house their own power source and would be able to communicate much like our own receptors do with our brains. The idea of applying the technology outside of just vehicles is also intriguing scientists as being able to sense slight variations such as minute cracks could be used as a pre-warning system for natural disasters to earthquakes or floods.